August 4, 2020

Despite the fact that South Dakota has seen an uptick of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, a positive of 6.5% as of this Monday, along with concerns from local residents, the annual biker rally at Sturgis is still on for 2020:

More than 250,000 people are expected to rumble through western South Dakota, seeking the freedom of cruising the boundless landscapes in a state that has skipped lockdowns. The Aug. 7 to 16 event, which could be the biggest anywhere so far during the pandemic, will offer businesses that depend on the rally a chance to make up for losses caused by the coronavirus. But for many in Sturgis, a city of about 7,000, the brimming bars and bacchanalia will not be welcome during a pandemic.

Though only about half the usual number of people are expected at this year’s event, residents were split as the city weighed its options. Many worried that the rally would cause an unmanageable outbreak of COVID-19.

“This is a huge, foolish mistake to make to host the rally this year,” Sturgis resident Lynelle Chapman told city counselors at a June meeting. “The government of Sturgis needs to care most for its citizens.”

In a survey of residents conducted by the city, more than 60% said the rally should be postponed. But businesses pressured the City Council to proceed.

The owner of the largest campground outside the city was determined to hold the event come hell or high water, regardless of how the City Council voted:

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Chip, which is the largest campground and concert venue that lies outside the bounds of the city, made clear that it would hold some version of the rally.

Rod Woodruff, who operates the Buffalo Chip, said he felt he had little choice but to proceed with the rally. He employs hundreds of people in August and a smaller full-time staff.

“We spend money for 355 days of the year without any return on it, hoping people show up for nine days,” he said. “We’re a nine-day business.”

Apparently Woodruff felt emboldened after they dodged a bullet following Trump's event at Mt. Rushmore and did not see a huge uptick in cases. That event was one day with around 7,500, not 9 days with a quarter of a million people. We'll find out in about a month how well hosting this event works out for them.

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